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Friday, April 11, 2008

Polygamist Update

Texas polygamist evidence includes computers, birth records and 'cyanide poisoning document'

SAN ANGELO, TEXAS — State prosecutors released court papers today showing that Texas Rangers had hauled off a major cache of evidence from a polygamist religious group's compound, including marriage and birth records and what was cryptically described as a "cyanide poisoning document."

The list of evidence, more than 80 pages long, also contained references to computers, cameras, photo albums, report cards, medical records and other personal belongings seized during Texas authorities' raid of the YFZ Ranch, a polygamist settlement outside the tiny West Texas cattle town of Eldorado.

The YFZ Ranch, which stands for Yearning for Zion, was built by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The 10,000-member sect was founded in the 1930s by religious leaders who continued practicing polygamy after it was banned by the Mormon Church in 1890 because they passionately believed it was a core teaching of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith.

Texas Rangers and child welfare officials began the raid April 3 after receiving reports from a 16-year-old girl who claimed she was sexually and physically abused by her husband, with whom she had had a child at age 15.

State officials did not find the girl. But they took state custody of more than 400 children at the compound, after discovering what they described in court records as numerous pregnant child brides and a widespread practice of men having what they described as spiritual marriages, and having babies, with girls as soon as they reached puberty.

A judge today ordered the state to keep the more than 400 children in custody in San Angelo until a hearing on Thursday. In other court filings, Texas Rangers described entering the towering white temple at the center of the polygamist compound and finding beds inside, including a bed that was unmade and had a long female hair. The affidavit claimed that a confidential informant had told Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran that men used the beds inside the temple to have sex with underage girls.

Texas Rangers stressed they tried to respect the group's religious privacy at every turn while searching for the 16-year-old girl. But after being refused a key to the imposing limestone temple, Texas Rangers forced their way inside -- and even applied "jaws of life" to the temple doors -- as 57 men from the sect cried and prayed.,0,7133413.story

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